A blind spot of European policy? Energy efficiency policies for low-income households
To reach the target of an almost carbon neutral building stock in the European Union by 2050, as proposed by the low-carbon roadmap, it is crucial to include all residential buildings and their inhabitants into these efforts. However, at the moment, only a few energy efficiency policies in Europe focus on or actively include low-income households, which represent about 17 % of households in the EU (as defined by earning less than 60 % of their respective national median equivalised disposable income). Social policies to alleviate energy poverty exist in nearly all Member States. Though these policies may be successful in alleviating energy poverty, they can actually lower the incentive for investing in energy efficiency. In this paper, we analyse the current energy efficiency policy landscape in the EU and its Member States with regard to how they address low-income households. We both refer to their capability to remove specific barriers for energy efficiency investments in low-income households as well as their environmental, economic, and social impacts. These impacts are often discussed as ""multiple benefits"" of energy efficiency and include, beyond their contribution to the achievement of energy and climate targets, positive impacts on employment, GDP, competitiveness or energy security and beneficial social impacts as e.g. alleviation of energy poverty, better health and well being or an improved living comfort. We then give recommendations for future policy design in the EU Member States and the recast of important EU Directives (EED, EPBD, Eco-Design and Energy Labelling Directives), while considering special design elements for low-income households without neglecting rebound effects and other counter-productive effects.